Kitchen pods meet rise in infant school meal demand in Berkshire
With school meals numbers soaring following the introduction of universal infant free school meals (UIFSM) this term, three West Berkshire schools have used special kitchen pods to meet demand.
Caroline Corcoran, service manager for West Berkshire Council, said lack of space, difficult access and a troublesome curb had all stood in the way of new kitchens and extensions being built in time to meet the deadline.
“The three schools each had a different problem. Using the pods in different ways at the schools provided solutions that meant they were ready to provide lunch onsite at the start of the new term,” she said.
She got the help she needed from the Children’s Food Trust and LACA’s (Lead Association for Catering in Education) free advice service, including how PKL Group’s KitchenPods might offer the quick solution she sought.
Westwood Farm Infant School, in Tilehurst shares a large site with Westwood Farm Junior School, which had previously cooked lunches for both schools. With an expected increase from 37 to 135 meals per day, transporting so many meals across the site by trolley was no longer an option. But without its own kitchen the infant school needed a temporary solution.
“Even if we’d extended the kitchen of the junior school the volume of meals meant it wouldn’t have been physically possible to transport them between the two schools in the time available. The kitchen pod came fully operational, all we had to do was put in a generator and gas bottles.”
At Cold Ash St Mark’s CE Primary School, in Thatcham and Hungerford Primary School, in Hungerford, they lacked space. With daily meal numbers projected to rise from 62 to 101 at Cold Ash and from 118 to 182 at Hungerford, she knew the existing kitchens would not be able to meet the increased demand.
“Pods gave both schools additional capacity to allow existing kitchens to operate at the level required to deliver meals to all infants,” said Corcoran.
CFT chief executive Linda Cregan said: “This is great news. Our research shows that when children eat better they do better and, as school meals have to meet national standards for nutrition, they are an ideal way to help children develop good food choices as habit.”
In all three schools the pods were installed as a temporary solution until building work can be undertaken. PKL Group sales and marketing director Lee Vines said: “We are delighted that we have been able to help a number of West Berkshire schools implement a lunchtime meal service.”
The free, national advice service to help schools, caterers and local authorities provide free school meals for all infants remains open throughout the school year ahead.